Heat stored in the Earth system 1960–2020: Where does the energy go?

The Earth climate system is out of energy balance and heat has accumulated continuously over the past decades, warming the ocean, the land, the cryosphere and the atmosphere. According to the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this planetary warming over multiple decades is human-driven and results in unprecedented and committed changes to the Earth system, with adverse impacts for ecosystems and human systems. The Earth heat inventory provides a measure of the Earth energy imbalance, and allows for quantifying how much heat has accumulated in the Earth system, and where the heat is stored. Here we show that 380 ± 62 ZJ of heat has accumulated in the Earth system from 1971 to 2020, at a rate of 0.48 ± 0.1 W m−2, with 89 ± 17 % of this heat stored in the ocean, 6 ± 0.1 % on land, 4 ± 1 % in the cryosphere and 1 ± 0.2 % in the atmosphere. Over the most recent decade (2006–2020), the Earth heat inventory shows increased warming at rate of 0.48 ± 0.3 W m−2/decade, and the Earth climate system is out of energy balance by 0.76 ± 0.2 Wm−2. The Earth heat inventory is the most fundamental global climate indicator that the scientific community and the public can use as the measure of how well the world is doing in the task of bringing anthropogenic climate change under control. We call for an implementation of the Earth heat inventory into the Paris agreement’s global stocktake based on best available science. The Earth heat inventory in this study, updated from von Schuckmann et al, 2020, is underpinned by worldwide multidisciplinary collaboration and demonstrates the critical importance of concerted international efforts for climate change monitoring and community-based recommendations as coordinated by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). We also call for urgently needed actions for enabling continuity, archiving, rescuing and calibrating efforts to assure improved and long-term monitoring capacity of the relevant GCOS Essential Climate Variables (ECV) for the Earth heat inventory.

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von schuckmann Karina, Miniere Audrey, Gues Flora, Cuesta-Valero Francisco Jose, Kirchengast Gottfried, Adusumilli Susheel, Straneo Fiammetta, Ablain Michael, Allan Richard P., Barker Paul M., Beltrami Hugo, Blazquez Alejandro, Boyer Tim, Cheng Lijing, Church John, Desbruyeres Damien, Dolman Han, Domingues Catia M., Garcia-Garcia Almudena, Giglio Donata, Gilson John E., Gorfer Maximilian, Haimberger Leopold, Hakuba Maria Z., Hendricks Stefan, Hosoda Shigeki, Johnson Gregory C., Killick Rachel, King Brian, Kolodziejczyk Nicolas, Korosov Anton, Krinner Gerhard, Kuusela Mikael, Landerer Felix W., Langer Moritz, Lavergne Thomas, Lawrence Isobel, Li Yuehua, Lyman John, Marti Florence, Marzeion Ben, Mayer Michael, Macdougall Andrew H., McDougall Trevor, Monselesan Didier Paolo, Nitzbon Jan, Otosaka Ines, Peng Jian, Purkey Sarah, Roemmich Dean, Sato Kanak, Sato Katsunari, Savita Abhishek, Schweiger Axel, Shepherd Andrew, Seneviratne Sonia I., Simons Leon, Slater Donald A., Slater Thomas, Steiner Andrea K., Suga Toshio, Szekely Tanguy, Thiery Wim, Timmermans Mary-Louise, Vanderkelen Inne, Wjiffels Susan E., Wu Tonghua, Zemp Michael (2023). Heat stored in the Earth system 1960–2020: Where does the energy go?. Earth System Science Data. 15 (4). 1675-1709. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-15-1675-2023, https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00787/89860/

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